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Mount Washington Observatory Summit Overnights

The Ultimate Mount Washington Adventure

Overnight EduTrips allow you to fully experience the summit of Mount Washington by spending a night in our weather station at 6,288 feet above sea level. You’ll get to enjoy a full day of sightseeing and alpine adventure, then join our staff scientists for a hearty dinner in the comfort of our heated weather station.

The educational value of your visit will be enhanced by your choice of exciting, alpine-related subjects, like geology, landscape photography, mountaineering, and more. You’ll receive expert, one-on-one instruction with the mountain as your classroom.

You might even get the opportunity to witness sunset and sunrise over New England—a breathtaking experience known only to the most intrepid mountaineers.

If you’re looking for the ultimate alpine adventure, this is the trip for you.

What’s Included

  • Round-trip transportation to and from the base in our deluxe snowcat
  • A dedicated Observatory trip leader
  • An expert instructor specializing in the field of your trip’s educational topic
  • Beverages and snacks upon arrival, lunch and dinner on the first day of your trip, and a hearty breakfast and lunch the next day
  • Overnight lodging in our bunk rooms
  • An exclusive tour of our weather station
  • The opportunity to experience Mount Washington’s famous winter extremes

IMPORTANT: Please read all background information and requirements for Mount Washington Observatory winter summit adventures, including required back-up dates. Click through each drop-down menu below to find more information about dates, topics, cancellation policies and more.

Your adventure will begin at the base of the Mt. Washington Auto Road, where you’ll meet your trip leaders and load the snowcat. As you ascend the 8-mile road, you’ll take in the incredible scenery of Pinkham Notch and the Presidential Range while marveling at the power of a two-ton tracked vehicle plowing through massive snowdrifts.

When you reach the top you will have gained over 4,500 feet of elevation, traveling from the temperate forest, through tree line, and into the alpine zone—a rugged, otherworldly landscape of earth and sky. After unloading the snowcat you’ll head inside the weather station and warm up with a hot beverage and snack.

The rest of your visit will be planned around the mountain’s incredible weather, but will include:

  • Ample opportunity to experience subarctic-like conditions, which often include winds at, or above, hurricane force, remarkable icing, freezing temperatures, blowing snow, and more
  • A behind-the-scenes tour of the Mount Washington Observatory’s famous mountaintop weather station, where you’ll learn about the institution’s work and see the instruments used by Observatory scientists
  • A trip to the top of the instrument tower for a birds-eye view of the summit from the highest point on the mountain
  • A social hour and hearty dinner with the weather station staff
  • The opportunity to experience sunset and/or sunrise from the tallest peak in the Northeast
  • A night in our weather station on the summit of Mount Washington
  • Expert instruction in your chosen trip’s topic

Trips meet at 8:30am and generally arrive back at the base around 3:00pm the next day. Please note that the exact timing of your ascent and return will be determined by the weather, so participants should be prepared for schedule changes. The changes could be as minor as an earlier departure to avoid an approaching storm, or as major as a second night on the summit in the event of an extremely severe, unanticipated weather event. Safety trumps all other concerns, so please bring your sense of adventure and a willingness to go with the flow.

Please note that each trip have scheduled back up days in the event that your trip does not make it to the summit.

THE SCIENCE OF WINTER STORMS
Date: January 15-16, 2024
Instructor: Mount Washington Observatory Weather Observers

Mount Washington is famous for its extreme weather, but few get to experience its fury directly. Join Observatory staff as we examine the drivers and impacts of winter phenomena such as blizzards, nor’easters, lake-effect snow, freezing rain, and extreme cold. We’ll apply theory and firsthand experience to understand the forces that produce New England’s extreme winter weather events.

WEATHER BASICS
Date: January 8-9, 2024 (Backup date January 22-23)
Instructor: Marsha Rich,  former Resource Agent for the American Meteorological Society

Learn how weather is created by the interrelationships between the sun and earth: specifically the land, air and water in its many forms. Explore the basics of weather observations and reporting, energy flow through the atmosphere, and the peculiarities of mountain weather. This trip is geared toward anyone with a general interest in weather, and provides a great training opportunity for science teachers.

WINTER ECOLOGY
Date: February 5-6, 2024 (Backup date February 19-20)
Instructor: Matt Maloney, Naturalist, Tin Mountain Conservation Center
New Hampshire has the second highest forest cover of any state in the USA despite bitter cold, high winds, snow and some dense population centers- but how do all these trees at varying elevations survive winter? Join Tin Mountain Conservation Center naturalist Matt Maloney as we look at why there is a tree line, what trees need to do to survive winter, and how they serve as an important food source for winter wildlife.

WINTER MOUNTAINEERING ESSENTIALS
Date: February 12-13, 2024 (Backup date February 26-27)
Instructor: Joe Lentini, Professional Climbing Guide

Join trip leader Joe Lentini, professional climbing guide, team leader and past vice president of the New Hampshire Mountain Rescue Service. With over 40 years as a professional guide and rescuer, Joe can help you avoid the common pitfalls inexperienced climbers make in the mountains. Learn the skills you need for travel in any of the mountain ranges of the world while spending the night atop the highest mountain in the Northeast! Sessions will include crampon and ice axe use, self-arrest, navigation, as well as avalanche safety and avalanche transceiver use. Then, on the second day of the course, put your new skills to the test with an early morning hike around the summit.

THE SCIENCE OF WINTER STORMS
Date: March 4-5, 2024 (Backup date March 18-19)
Instructor: Mount Washington Observatory Weather Observers

Mount Washington is famous for its extreme winter weather, but few get to experience its fury directly. Join Observatory staff as we examine the drivers and impacts of winter phenomena such as blizzards, nor’easters, lake-effect snow, freezing rain, and extreme cold. We’ll apply theory and experience to understand the forces that produce New England’s winter weather events.

BEHIND THE SCENES & SCIENCE OF BROADCAST METEOROLOGY
Date: March 11-12, 2024 (Backup date March 25-26, 2024)
Instructor: Eric Fisher, Chief Meteorologist, CBS Boston WBZ-TV

Join WBZ chief meteorologist Eric Fisher as he pulls the curtain back on how broadcast meteorologists operate and report on the weather. Learn what it’s like to cover some of the biggest severe weather events, what makes New England forecasting tricky, and how a changing climate is affecting our region.

$1,349* per person. 

* Program rates do not include an additional administrative processing fee charged by our online booking service. This service reduces administrative time and helps Observatory educators, educate!

**Tips for your trip leader and/or instructor are not expected, but if you wish to provide one, they are appreciated.  

Reservations may be made through this website or by phone at (603) 356-2137, ext. 225. Trips are limited to a maximum of nine participants, and we maintain waiting lists for trips that are full.

REGISTER

Health & Safety Requirements

Mount Washington is one of the most extreme and remarkable places on the planet, but not everyone is suited for this environment.

The New Hampshire Fire Marshall’s Office requires that all summit visitors and volunteers meet one basic requirement: In the event of an emergency, you must be physically able to “self-evacuate” from the summit. This means you must have the physical ability to get yourself down the mountain, even in extreme conditions. We urge all participants to take this requirement very seriously.

The Mt. Washington Auto Road, which we use to access the summit, is about eight miles long. Approximately half of the road is above tree line. Weather above tree line is often severe, and can turn deadly if you are unprepared, ill-equipped, or unable to hike to safety in the event of a vehicular breakdown.

Note: Trips will not be made far above tree line if the weather is judged to be extraordinarily severe, but even normal weather on Mount Washington can prove lethal to those who are unfit or poorly prepared.

For the safety of all our staff and guests, Mount Washington Observatory does not permit the consumption of alcohol or controlled substances in or around our summit weather station or in any of our facilities. Alcohol is not available on the summit, nor should it be brought to the summit by staff, visitors or guests.

Cell Phone Use: Mount Washington Observatory cannot guarantee cell coverage during your visit. We recommend turning your cell phone to airplane mode for the duration of your adventure. A laptop computer with internet access is available at the Observatory for urgent use but unfortunately there will be no wireless network access available at the Observatory.

Winter Weather

Our winter operating season is defined as the time when ice and snow engulf the summit, and the Mt. Washington Auto Road is closed to private vehicles. Generally, this is mid-October through mid-May.

An average mid-winter day on Mount Washington finds the summit in rime-ice producing fog, with visibility limited to 100 feet or less, a temperature of about 5°F, and a wind speed near 50 mph. Gusts of 70 mph or greater are likely. A typical wind chill would approach -25°F. It is not uncommon to experience temperatures as low as -45°F, with winds gusting over 100 mph.

Hiking conditions may include drifted snow, glaze ice, sub-zero temperatures, hurricane force winds, and near zero visibility.

Summer Weather

Our summer operating season is defined as the time when the Mt. Washington Auto Road is open to private vehicles. Generally, this is mid-May through mid-October.

An average mid-summer day on Mount Washington has a high temperature of about 53°F and an overnight low of about 42°F, but freezing temperatures can occur during any month of the year. Winds average about 25 mph, with hurricane-force gusts possible. Thick, wet fog occurs on about 90% of the days in summer, and measurable precipitation is recorded about every other day.

Hiking conditions may include frigid temperatures, high winds, blowing precipitation, and limited visibility.

Due to the severity of these conditions, we require that all participants:

  • Are at least 18 years of age or are accompanied by a parent or guardian at all times
  • Are ready, willing, and able to hike to safety on the Mt. Washington Auto Road, which could be up to eight miles on the steep, snow-covered mountain road, or possibly several miles on the rugged trails above treeline, amidst extreme weather conditions, such as blowing snow, thick fog, sub-zero temperatures, and high winds.
  • Are properly prepared with all the required clothing and equipment
  • Understand the risks and hazards of participating in a visit to the Mount Washington Observatory
  • Have to the best of their knowledge, completely filled out any pertinent health and safety information upon registration. If significant changes in health have occurred, please contact education@mountwashington.org with this information.

The minimum age for a winter trip is 16. Minors must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or qualified adult leader, and must meet all full health and safety requirements.

For your health and safety, and for the health and safety of your fellow trip mates, you will be required to come prepared with attire and gear to protect you from Mount Washington’s extreme conditions.

Gear Requirements for All Winter Trips to the Summit

Due to space limitations on the snowcat, all belongings must be condensed as much as possible. For day trips, we recommend bringing a single day pack per person. For overnight guests, one duffle bag (no wider than two car seats) and one day pack per person works well. All essential outdoor gear items must be readily accessible while in transit to/from the summit station. Any trip participant who is not appropriately prepared with the required gear is subject to dismissal from the trip

Please note: We have included an example of each item listed simply as a recommendation. We do not require you purchase the specific brand items suggested.

Required for all trips

Additional requirements for overnight guests

  • Indoor “lounging” clothes & footwear
  • Sleeping bag (one fitted sheet and a pillow will be provided by MWO)
  • All necessary toiletries
  • Food items (if special non-allergenic dietary restrictions apply)

Recommended for all trips

The Following Will Be Provide by MWOBS if Necessary

Trips depart from and return to the parking lot at the northeast corner of the Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center at the base of the Mt. Washington Auto Road. The parking lot is located on Route 16 directly across the road from the main entrance to the Mount Washington Auto Road. Once we are assembled we will do introductions, load our gear into an Observatory vehicle and walk across the street to the Observatory’s garage for a brief safety orientation and then head up the mountain. Note: please park together with the other cars against the forest, so plow trucks can move easily through the lot.

Extreme weather may occur at any time, and may delay a trip’s descent. For this reason, we recommend that you remain flexible with your travel plans for the day or two after your trip. Weather-related changes are an inherent part of any true alpine adventure.

For a list of area lodging options, visit our lodging partners.

Participant Cancellation: Trip fees will be refunded for cancellations made at least 30 days before the trip date, less a $50 administrative fee. Cancellations less than 30 days but more than 14 days before the departure date will be credited at 50%. Cancellations made within 14 days of the trip date will result in forfeiture of the entire trip fee.

Observatory Cancellation: A minimum of six participants is required for a trip to run. If we do not reach that minimum by one week before the trip, the trip may be cancelled. All registrants will be offered the option of a refund or a re-booking on another available trip that same season.

The safety of our guests and employees is of utmost importance, so trips may be cancelled due to extremely inclement weather. We will do our best to notify all participants of the cancellation in advance, but mountain weather is notoriously unpredictable, so we cannot guarantee advance notice. The decision to cancel a trip could be made on the morning of the trip, or even during the ascent. Please be prepared to have alternate overnight accommodations. In the event of a cancellation, a backup date for each trip has been provided. You are required to attend this backup date if your trip is cancelled or postponed. Due to limited resources and the associated costs of providing transportation to the summit of Mount Washington in winter, Mount Washington Observatory is unable to provide refunds or re-bookings for participants that cannot participate in the backup date provided.